How to recognize a bad therapist?

The first step of any successful mental health journey is deciding to see a therapist. This indicates that you are willing and ready to work to solve your problems and create a better person in the process. However, deciding on a therapist is not something you can take lightly. In a sense, finding the right therapist is quite similar to dating, as you will need most likely need to go through quite a few of them until you find the right match. But more importantly, you need to know how to figure out if your therapist is bad for you. Otherwise, you may be spending a lot of money and mental energy for sub-par results, or even detrimental, results. That is why Consumer Opinion Guide has prepared this article for you, where we will provide you with information to recognize a bad therapist when you see one.

Therapy in session.
Learn about the red flags to avoid bad therapists.

How exactly can you recognize a bad therapist?

There are numerous factors that can tell you whether your therapist is the right match. You will want to look at the following traits:

  • Reliability
  • Ethics
  • Bigotry
  • Overly judgmental
  • Too passive/Too pushy

The fact of the matter is that you might not feel a genuine connection to your therapist, even if they have all the necessary qualifications. People connect at so many levels, it is important that you choose an online therapist you can simply “click” with. Qualifications are important, of course, as you want your therapist to specialize in treating the mental issues that you have.

Even if things start well, you need to be on the lookout for any signs of a bad therapist all the time. If your therapy sessions are not going well, you have no obligation to continue with them. But figuring out that they are not going well is the tricky part. To make it easier, you may want to ask yourself the following question:

Sense of unreliability

Therapists, like any other professionals, can have extremely complicated and busy lives, much the same as their patients. It is absolutely normal to reschedule a few sessions here and there due to a serious reason. However, some therapists show up late much more frequently, reschedule or cancel sessions regularly, or might even forget about them. If you notice that your therapist simply cannot be relied upon, it is time to search for a new one.

The reason why this is the case is that those kinds of actions show that you are not a priority to the therapist. You can try talking it out with them and see if anything changes. But this is only in the case that you really like the therapist and are willing to compromise.

Ethically challenged

Another way to recognize a bad therapist is if you know that they have violated the professional code of conduct and betrayed their patient trust. If by any chance, your therapist pursued you in any sexual manner, it is in your immediate interest to stop all future sessions. You will also want to report that therapist to the authorities.

person holding a "#metoo" sign
Say no to sexual harassment.

This is, admittedly, an easy (if extremely stressful) situation to solve. There are other situations where a therapist can engage in unethical behavior. For example, a therapist can try to get you to provide them with personal favors or run a few errands for them. They may “package” it in a way that sounds perfectly innocent and logical. Or your therapist might break patient/doctor confidentiality and gossip to you about their other patients. What’s to stop them from doing the same with your personal information?

Lastly, if your therapist treats you like a friend rather than a patient, you will want to find another one. The reason is that acting friendly and talking about random stuff wastes valuable session time and stops your healing progress.


Bigotry is all but extinct, even in this day and age. There is a real possibility that your therapist has bigoted views. They can show this by making disparaging sexual orientation remarks, snide remarks about background, religion, or any part of your identity. If they do so, you’ve guessed it, find a new therapist.

Angry person banging on a table.
If your therapist is a bigot, choose another one.

But such remarks or openly expressing their views are not the only indicators. Pay note to whether your therapist expresses surprise that you speak English well, are married with children, or even that you are college-educated. And, of course, if your therapist sounds condescending or if they talk down to you, find another one.

Judgemental vibes

We all judge people one way or another. That is a simple fact. However, when it comes to mental health professionals, they need to keep their judgments carefully reined in. Your therapist should not force any of their views onto you, whether they are religious, personal, or otherwise. They are there to help you be your authentic self. Note that your therapist will try to root out any socially unacceptable, or damaging, behavior, which is why you are there in the first place.

a gavel, representing how to recognize a bad therapist if they are judgmental
Nobody wants a judgemental therapist.

But if a therapist judges you for your financial irresponsibility, history of drug addiction, sexual promiscuity, or anything similar, that only means that you will have difficulties talking to them. We do not like to be judged, after all. You are there to solve the issues, not listen to judgmental criticism from a judgmental therapist.

We would also like to point out that you should be open to criticism but in a general sense. Being judged is not the same as being criticized, after all.

Lacking balance

Some therapists can be too pushy or too passive. If a therapist is afraid to provide you with a nudge that you require to improve your life, you need to find a more proactive one. This usually happens when therapists do not have a plan on how to deal with your issues. They are there to listen, provide you with some exercises, and that’s about it. You deserve much more.

On the other side, if your therapist heavily pushes you to action, sets unrealistic goals, and you can’t get a word edgewise, choose another one. It may be hard to recognize a bad therapist at a first glance but after a few sessions, you will have all the necessary information to make the best choice.

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